Monday, December 19, 2011

Part 2, What I Would Have Included

This year, more than any year, I think Christmas is about families. And not just family parties and matching pajamas, but the creation and maintenance of families, and the way God meets us as we participate in the wild, thrilling, sometimes heart-wrenching events involved in building them. I can't seem to get enough of thinking about this, so, as promised, I'm posting the quotes I would have included, had I but world enough and time. (If you don't know what I'm talking about ... see my last post.) As I mentioned, there were dozens of beautiful, meaningful, deep deep quotes I wanted to include, but just didn't have time or space. And since I want to hold onto them, and since I think they're beautiful and you might too, I'm posting them here. This is a long post, but I've resisted the urge to split it into two. I think the stream of them is important. Thank you, many many thank yous, to those who sent these thoughts to me. I hope they deepen your sense of this season, as they have mine. 


“When Garret was born, […] I remember looking at [Terry] holding Garret and looking into his eyes, while Garret stared fiercely into his.  Not crying, just staring.  His father was glowing.  I remember looking at them both and feeling how right everything was, in spite of the fact that [the doctors] were trying to repair the damage they inflicted on me at his birth.  I felt at that moment that [Heavenly Father] was in charge, in spite of the injury, and that everything would be all right.”


“When we brought Tia home, I was so nervous. It felt like she was so special and important and I was worried I'd mess up or she wouldn't like our home.” 


“[Ada] did not settle peacefully into my arms or open her eyes to look lovingly up at her mother. No, she squirmed and grunted, and then the nurse took her away from me (because the grunting indicated respiratory distress). And I [confess I] was relieved to have her gone. All I wanted to do was sleep. For the next several weeks, I barely slept or ate since I had to spend all my spare time attempting to sleep. Often I lied down to bed thinking, "If I spend all my time and energy taking care of that baby, who will take care of me?" Time and again, the answer to my question was that the Lord would take care of me. Each time I found myself at the point where I could not function from exhaustion, Ada would miraculously take an extra-long nap, and I could sleep for two, maybe three hours at a time. I knew the Lord blessed that baby that she would sleep so I could sleep.”


[When I had my miscarriage, I wrote in my journal:] “I haven't wanted my husband to leave me. At night I reach out just to touch him, and he reaches for me too.”


“Lee and I have been agonizing over if we are done having children or not. […] I went to the Temple Saturday [to pray]. As I was leaving I stepped into the atrium and prayed, waiting for an answer. I heard a voice. It was a women's voice and […] and it was a familiar voice […]. She told me I was done. I cried out that I did not want to be done (which was a surprise to me). She told me that it did not mean there would not be more babies for me to love or lives that I would influence but that my body was done.  […] I felt the partnership with God in planning my family. She told me to love, enjoy, and adore the children I had.”


“A few hours later, when the epidural wore off and he was stabilized, I went in to the NICU to meet [Nicholas]. I remember thinking, as I walked into the room and they brought me to his bassinet. "This is surreal. Did I really do this? Is he really mine?" I felt like I was pretending, and any minute the nurse would tell me to hand him over and go home. Nicholas, on the other hand, knew exactly what to do. When they gave him to me, all wrapped up in white blankets, he snuggled into my arms and then he looked deeply into my eyes. I watched his pupils focus and as he held my gaze, I felt a thousand things. I knew he was a gift from God and I had a huge responsibility to protect and nurture him, but I wasn't alone; my heart pounded with a love that I could feel swelling so big, I literally felt my world tilt. I felt I had already known Nicholas for a while, and though he is mine for now, he's on loan from his Father.” 


“I am still amazed by the helplessness of a newborn. Wes is over a year old, and refuses most food, insisting on nursing regularly. His entire body exists and subsists because mine provides. And it stuns me that our Savior humbled himself, condescended to come to us, to rely on some of us, to sustain His life so He could save ours. And I also consider it a demonstration of His trust in us. That He loved the world enough to come as a defenseless child to follow through on the plan. I guess it's easier for me to understand this sort of trust and love and sacrifice. The atonement is so vast. I've never seen a perfect man. But I've seen perfect and defenseless little children, [so thinking of Christ as a baby at Christmastime helps me understand him as our Savior]. […] I have to say that I have thought often of Mary. Of the careful, wise woman she must have been to be entrusted with the baby Jesus. And how short I fall with my own children.”  

“Even though my struggle to get pregnant was not unique, God met me there anyway—in those moments, once a month, when I curled up under the covers and cried. He never told me when the baby would come. He just sent me the same message over and over: I hear you. Those are the same words I tell my little girl whenever she starts to cry.”


“It was crucial to me in both the births of my children that I get to hold them right away.  […] Especially with my first, it seemed hard to believe that a baby was really coming.  It amazed me when the baby did come, that the pain was gone—emotional pain as well as the physical.  I felt that instead of the doctor being there, that it really was Heavenly Father handing those babies to me.  They're really not ours—they're His, but what a privilege He gives us.”


“[The nurse] held my hand […] while Adam held the other and she coached me through the pushing. This nurse stayed right by my head and told me when to breathe, when to push, what to do. All my training and Bradley method stuff that had gotten me through the contractions went out the window. But she kept me grounded. Her voice cut through the haze and the fear and the pain. And I listened. After it was over and I was holding Elizabeth and just bursting with love and gratitude, she came to check on me. I'm sure I was high on hormones and maybe she thought as much. But I remember taking her hand and tears falling as I thanked her. I think my exact words were, ‘You were like an angel.’”


“Our ward had their Christmas party last Friday. We had a night in Bethlehem; the cultural hall was made to look just like Bethlehem, complete with life-size papier-mâché palm trees and camels. And Joel, Tennyson and I were Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus. And Tennyson just cooed and waved his arms even though he was so hungry. And I couldn't stop looking at my beautiful boy. It didn't matter that there were hundreds of people watching--it was just the three of us. It must have been that way for Mary, though she had strangers coming to adore, it must have been so personal as well. And I can't help but think that dirty as that stable may have been, I would far prefer it to a crowded, bustling inn for giving birth to my baby.”


“Looking at [Kershisnik’s painting Nativity] made me think of how alone Mary was. I wonder if Joseph knew anything at all about childbirth. I wonder if anyone came to help Mary. […] I wonder how scared she was, a young woman far from home.  My Mississippi hospital doesn't let you touch the baby right after it is born. […] I was able to hold her for less than two minutes before they took her to the nursery. I'm not smiling in those first pictures. She was wrapped up and I barely got to touch her skin. Kevin went with her to the nursery. The doctor and nurses finished cleaning me up, and they all left. I've never felt so very alone.”


“Becoming a new parent is remarkable in so many ways, but what has stood out to me over the last three and half years is that parenthood is an exercise in love and sacrifice. In blessing us with responsibility for some of His beloved spirit children, God gives us the opportunity to be more like Him and to know our Heavenly Father and Savior better. Before Lucy and Elise were born, I was a little concerned. I couldn't imagine loving anybody as much as I loved Annika, and yet I had not one, but two new spirits coming to our family. How would I have enough love to share with three children? Of course I loved them immediately, but in the following two weeks as I trudged back and forth in the snow at all hours of day and night to visit them and feed them in the NICU, my love grew and deepened until I felt that my heart would overflow. I had prayed and prayed that I would be able to show two new, demanding babies enough love and those trips from my hotel to the hospital in the snow were the answer to my prayers. By allowing me the opportunity to sacrifice for my new baby girls, the Lord taught me how to love them.” 


“I have been thinking about this a lot, because we found out two weeks ago that I am having a boy.  His name is Jack, my little hero.  It somehow seems like a private, sweet miracle that I am pregnant with a boy during Christmastime.  All the lullabies I want to sing Jack are Christmas lullabies, and I hope Jesus doesn't think it's sacrilegious that I think about my little boy when I am singing Christmas songs that are actually about Him.

I think one of the reasons I love Christmas so much is that it's an entire season where the holy, unearthly, and mystical parts of the Gospel manifest themselves in the most humble and universal stories -- of a baby's birth.  As Jack's parents we are already pouring all of our love and hope into this tiny doll-child that has started nudging my innards.  At night I lie in bed, hoping to feel a reassuring squirm or two from him before I fall asleep, and I think how there's nothing I would not do for him.  I mean, he's not even out of the womb yet.  I will be a crazy mama.

But it humanizes Mary, and Jesus, in a way that is still so sacred.  In recent years I have thought a lot about Mary and Joseph's faith and bravery.  Why should anyone have believed her story?  Since when does a woman actually conceive a baby, if not by a man?  Probably no one did believe her, and probably one of the purest and best of women put up with being ridiculed and cruelly judged by her own people.  I think however, of how much she must have loved the little boy growing inside her, not just because he would be her Savior, but because he would be her baby.  Undoubtedly her bravery came not just from her faith and goodness, but from a mother's love.”


Genevieve Beck said...

Thanks to everyone that shared there. What an experience to read them!

Terry Earley said...

These were all very moving. Thank you for posting the rest

Mike and Emily said...

I loved these as well. Thank you for putting this together.

Amara said...

I love so many of these stories. Especially the one about Heavenly Father hearing while the mother tried to conceive. I'm so grateful she was brave enough to share that.

Elise said...

Wow. These are lovely. We should share more often because that was so uplifting. That reaching out just spoke to me in a way that I needed. And the mother going to the temple to hear that she was done? Beautiful. And I loved hearing "I hear you..." They are all so beautiful! Thank you, Deja.

Russanne said...

When times are troubling for me I can only sleep with one hand placed somewhere on Kyle. These are all beautiful and it gives me hope that someday I will be able to take care of His babies how He needs me to.

belann said...

Totally missed this post. So glad you gathered such important memories.

ashmae said...

wow. what a powerful project. I love the gathering of words. thanks for sharing.